Sims, Michael, The Phantom Coach-Victorian Ghost Stories
06/02/2014 The mournful, moralizing, and malevolent dead lurk in the gaslit streets, ancestral estates, and tortured psyches of this solid but unremarkable reprint anthology, which will appeal more to newcomers than to “connoisseurs.” Selections explore the genre’s varied stylistic approaches and major themes, including women’s rights, social injustice, and psychological realism. A spirit punishes familial abuse in Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story.” Spectral children haunt Rudyard Kipling’s bittersweet “They.” Amelia B. Edwards’s “The Phantom Coach” is a gritty, evocative tale of spectral reoccurrence, and Henry James’s “Sir Edmund Orme” elegantly renders psychological reaction to the otherworld. Cosmic terror reverberates from a forbidden text in Robert W. Chambers’s “The Yellow Sign,” and death knocks at home in W.W. Jacobs’s morally gripping “The Monkeys Paw.” Abstract notions of revolution and repression are given ghostly form, inviting historical introspection as well as literary enjoyment. Sims’s survey of the unquiet Victorian dead is a decent introduction to the period.